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In 1976 German and Palestinian terrorists hijacked an Air France flight. They forced the pilot to fly to Entebbe, Uganda where they were supported by the Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin. The selection of Jewish and Non-Jewish hostages shocked the world. Israel decided to send her most elite unit, the Sayeret Matkal and launch the Operation Thunderbolt. On 04 June the Israel Defense Forces freed the hostages and flew them back to Israel.






  • Date: 04 Jul 1976
  • Location: Entebbe, Uganda
  • Event: Freeing of 102 hostages by the IDF (Israel Defense Forces)


Parties & Persons Involved

  • Israel
    • Dan Shomron (1937 – 2008) – Commander Infantry
    • Yekutiel Adam (1927 – 1982) – Commander South Command
    • Benjamin Peled (1928 – 2002) – Commander Air Force
    • Yonatan Netanyahu (1946 – 1976) – Com. Sayeret Matkal
  • Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
    • Wadie Haddad (1927 – 1978)
  • Revolutionary Cells
    • Wilfried Böse (1949 – 1976)
  • Uganda
    • Idi Amin (1925 – 2003)



Highjacking of Air France Flight 139

  • 27 Jun 1976: Alongside 54 passengers 4 terrorists (2 Germans & 2 Palestinians) board an Air France flight from Tel Aviv via Athens to Paris
  • 27 Jun 1976: Shortly after takeoff the terrorists take over & order the pilot to fly to Benghazi, Libya
  • 28 Jun 1976: The hijacked plane is flown to Entebbe, Uganda
  • 28 Jun 1976: At least 4 additional terrorists join their comrades in Entebbe; Idi Amin & the Ugandan forces support the terrorists


Development in Entebbe

  • 28 Jun 1976: In the terminal building the terrorists divide the hostages into Jews & non-Jews who are permitted to return home
  • 28 Jun 1976: The French (non-Jewish) captain & his crew stand to their responsibility & remain with the Jewish hostages
  • The selection of hostages compares to processes during the Holocaust & causes global disgust & a shock in Israel
  • The hijackers demand the release of 53 Palestinians from prisons in Israel, Kenya, France, Switzerland & Germany until 01 July 1976
  • 28 Jun – 01 Jul 1976: Diplomatic attempts to achieve the release of the hostages fail
  • 01 Jul 1976: Israel offers direct negotiations & achieves an extension of the ultimatum to 04 July 1976


Operation Thunderbolt

  • 4 C-130 Hercules (supported by 2 Boeing 707) undertake a low level flight from Sharm el-Sheikh to Entebbe (landing at 23:00 hrs IST)
  • Operation Thunderbolt in Entebbe:
    • Sayeret Matkal disembarks with 1 Mercedes & Land Rovers to proceed to the terminal (imitating Idi Amin)
    • 2 Ugandan soldiers are shot
    • Sayeret Matkal charges into the terminal & kills all of the terrorists
    • 3 hostages die during the firefight
    • In a parallel operation Israeli troops destroy at least 11 Ugandan fighter jets
    • The hostages are transported to the Israeli aircrafts
    • Yonatan Netanyahu is killed during a rearguard action with Ugandan troops
    • 53 minutes after touchdown the Israeli aircrafts depart Entebbe for Kenya & then Israel


Reaction of Idi Amin

  • Idi Amin orders Dora Bloch murdered, a 75 years old hostage in an Ugandan hospital
  • Idi Amin orders the murder of several 100 Kenyans in Uganda


Consequences & Impact

  • Idi Amin’s position is weakened
  • Global respect for the military capability of the Israel Defense Forces
  • Israel is proud to have freed the hostages & defended some of her core values:
    • Chaim Herzog, Israeli ambasedor to the UN: “...we are proud of what we have done because we have demonstrated to the world that in a small country (...) the dignity of man, human life and human freedom constitute the highest values. We are proud not only because we have saved the lives of over a hundred innocent people – men, women and children – but because of the significance of our act for the cause of human freedom.”
  • The West applauds the Israeli operation & the East condemns the operation